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October 3: Archives Month - Georgia Carpenter

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October is Archives Month, an occasion to recognize the efforts to assess, collect, organize, preserve, and provide access to information of lasting value. The North Dakota State Archives is part of the State Historical Society of North Dakota. Today, we recognize Georgia Carpenter, who came from out east in 1915 to become the second librarian for the North Dakota State Historical Society.

The curator, Herbert C. Fish, had resigned in August, so Miss Carpenter was actually in charge of both the library and museum for seven months, until Dr. Melvin Gilmore, of Nebraska, began as curator the following year. Luckily, Carpenter did have some help in the form of Mrs. Katherine Jewell, who came on board as the newspaper clerk soon after Miss Carpenter’s arrival.

Being in the community truly was part of the gig. Georgia Carpenter embraced this, giving talks and participating in social events. Newspaper accounts noted that she spoke to the Burleigh County Teachers’ institute about the “much valuable information that [could] be obtained from the various government reports” kept at the State Historical Society. She was also listed with other librarians and volunteers, who helped establish the first official public library space in Bismarck, which opened in February 1916.

In her first year at the State Historical Society, Carpenter reported that the museum was open “every working day,” and she counted thousands of visitors from North Dakota and elsewhere who visited the “fine display of historical material.”

The visitors continued to flow in, and later in 1916, a news account reported how one of those visitors illustrated how the world can be a very small place. Attorney William V. Smith of Flint, Michigan, was at the Capitol, looking after legal matters, when he and Miss Carpenter, in the course of a casual conversation, discovered that he and Miss Carpenter’s father had been boys together in Cattaraugus County, NY, attending the same school, and participating in the same pranks.

Dakota Datebook by Sarah Walker

Sources:

  • Bismarck Daily Tribune, September 2, 1915, p3
  • Bismarck Daily Tribune, October 13, 1916, p4
  • Bismarck Daily Tribune, February 25, 1916, p1
  • The Fargo Forum and Daily Republican, December 10, 1915, p2
  • North Dakota Blue Book, 2015-2017
  • Bismarck Daily Tribune, December 9, 1915, p2
  • SHSND State Series 30213, folder 13, Historical Society. Secretary’s files

Dakota Datebook is made in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, and funded by Humanities North Dakota, a nonprofit, independent state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the program do not necessarily reflect those of Humanities North Dakota or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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